The S.A.F.E. Model of Negotiating Critical Incidents
119 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2008
Date Written: November 9, 2008
These are violent times we live in. Each and every day, internet sites, newspapers, and television and radio stations report the gruesome details of violence run amok. The majority of critical incidents reported by the media are human-made situations (although critical incidents also arise from natural disasters as well). Such human-induced incidents can range from a disgruntled employee barricaded in the lunchroom at work to a cult confrontation such as the tragedy in Waco, Texas that resulted in the fiery deaths of 81 Branch Davidians. A critical incident can also include a single, suicidal individual with a gun to mass casualty scenarios, such as the calculated and planned bombings on the London mass transit system on July 7, 2006 in which fifty-six people were killed (including four homicide bombers) and 700 injured and the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., resulting in the deaths of over 3,000 innocent victims. Critical incidents can be planned to the smallest detail or impulsively ignited (e.g., road rage). They can arise from any type of unsatisfactory encounter, including a robbery, a domestic dispute, an angry confrontation in the workplace, a family argument, and even a casual misunderstanding in a restaurant, bar, or sporting event. A critical incident can involve a subject who is reported to have a weapon and has barricaded him/herself in a room or building. An incident can also be a hostage situation whereby individuals are held against their will in order to attain some identified, instrumental goal or a non-hostage event in which individuals are held against their will and are victims to the subject's emotional state (G.W. Noesner, 1999). Common across this wide variety of incident characteristics, however, is that these potentially deadly situations are often resolved either through negotiation or through a tactical solution.
When a crisis incident is resolved tactically, however, there is increased public scrutiny as to whether a tactical assault was necessary to resolve the potentially violent event. With this scrutiny has come increased demands for law enforcement to employ the latest and most effective negotiation approaches for peacefully resolving potentially violent encounters that include prison riots, criminal actions, terrorist acts, suicide attempts, and hostage taking situations (Hammer, 2007). Yet not all efforts at negotiating a crisis situation result in a peaceful surrender of the subject. When negotiation fails, hostages, bystanders, police officers and the subject him/her self are at elevated risk of being injured or killed. In this chapter, I focus on the role of negotiation in resolving critical incidents. Specifically, I present, in summary form, the S.A.F.E. crisis negotiation model that is grounded in quantitative research (Hammer & Rogan, 2004; Rogan & Hammer, 1994, 1995, 1998) and more recent discourse analytic investigation (Hammer, 2007).
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